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Stalin Line

"Stalin's line" is a system of Soviet fortifications built along the western border of the USSR during the period 1926-1939. Disputes and discussions related to the theme "Stalin's line" tend to be limited to the use of the name of Stalin in negative reaction and criticism from the people for whom this name is due to the bleak pages of the Stalin era. Also frequently follow failing that the title is now often used in conjunction with the ideological and propaganda. It should be noted that this is more relevant for Belarus, "Stalin's line" has given rise to many debates in society and the media on this topic.

The most common is the version of Viktor Suvorov (Rezun) in his book "Icebreaker". And because this book has won widespread popularity and spread, and the name "Stalin's line" became widely used. Proponents of this version also often referred to the fact that nowhere in the Soviet era was the name "Stalin's line" ever used. During the lifetime of the USSR it simply did not exist. Chain fortified [ukreprajonov] from black to the Baltic Sea was called simply "line fortified [ukreprajonov]", then "the old border line fortified [ukreprajonov]"

However, there are also other, less common version of the name. Here are some of them.

The first version. The name "Stalin's line" was coined and first used a reporter of Russian emigrant newspaper that goes in Riga, on 9 December 1936, and later was duplicated correspondent British newspaper the daily Express.

The second version. The name "Stalin's line" was coined and first used the German propaganda in 1942, when the Germans came to study further the Soviet system of fortifications at the "old" border. Apparently, this name was given by Soviet strongholds like built around the same time in Western Europe-line systems of cross-border fortifications in France and the Maginot line in Finland. As proof of this version, you can provide the relevant page of Denskrifta (German document with a detailed description of Soviet defenses based on research conducted in 1942). Therefore, the fact that the title "Stalin's line" is the informal name, which it was not the Soviet side, and initially any ideological and political framework. Therefore, the use of historically prevalent term is justified. Moreover, if one refused to use it, it still have to invent an entirely new name because another convenient and easy name does not exist.

During the Russian Civil War, the Red Army created a series of fortified areas, or ukreplinnyje rajony (UR), which were to be used not only for defense but were also to act as staging points for offensive operations. In the 1920s, Trotsky espoused that a peasant army of the kind characteristic of Russia could only be suited to defensive operations. One of the first generals to clash with Trotsky was Mikhail Vasilievich Frunze, a protege of Stalin. Frunze argued that if the Soviets could not strike the first blow, they could retreat over great distances as was done against Napoleon in 1812. But in the end, only a decisive offensive could defeat the enemy. Frunze advocated large, maneuverable armies, and did not like static fortifications.

Mikhail Tukhachevski, the advocate of deep attack, argued in his 1934 article "The Characteristics of Border Operations", that fortified regions along the border could act as shields in protecting the concentration of second echelon armies. The second echelon armies would then be used to deliver blows on the flanks of an advancing enemy. These tactics became the basis for Stalin's and Zhukov's defensive preparations in June 1941.

During the 1930s detachments were trained to operate both on home territory and enemy territory as part of the preparations to meet the enemy in the Western regions of the Soviet Union. These were carried out very seriously. First of all large partisan units were formed, made up of carefully screened and selected soldiers. The partisans went on living in the towns and villages, but went through their regular military training and were ready at any moment to take off into the forests. The units were only the basis upon which to develop much larger-scale partisan warfare. In peacetime they were made up largely of leaders and specialists; in the course of the fighting each unit was expected to expand into a huge formation consisting of several thousand men. For these formations hiding places were prepared in secluded locations and stocked with weapons, ammunition, means of communications and other necessary equipment.

Apart from the partisans who were to take to the forests a vast network of reconnaissance and commando troops was prepared. The local inhabitants were trained to carry out reconnaissance and terrorist operations and, if the enemy arrived, they were supposed to remain in place and pretend to submit to the enemy, and even work for him. These networks were supposed later to organize a fierce campaign of terror inside the enemy garrisons. To make it easier for the partisans and the terrorists to operate, secret communication networks and supplies were set up in peacetime, along with secret meeting places, underground hospitals, command posts and even arms factories.

To make it easier for the partisans to operate on their own territory a `destruction zone' was created, also known as a `death strip'. This was a strip running the length of the Western frontiers of the Soviet Union between 100 and 250 kilometers wide. Within that strip all bridges, railway depots, tunnels, water storage tanks and electric power stations were prepared for destruction by explosive. Also in peacetime major embankments on railway lines and highways and cuttings through which the roads passed were made ready for blowing up. Means of communication, telephone lines, even the permanent way, all were prepared for destruction.

Immediately behind the `death strip' came the `Stalin Line' of exceptionally well fortified defenses. The General Staff's idea was that the enemy should be exhausted in the `death strip' on the vast minefields and huge obstacles and then get stuck on the line of fortifications. At the same time the partisans would be constantly attacking him in the rear.

The total of fortification construction of Stalin's line was built approximately the following number of constructions:

  1. Polotsk UR-200
  2. Mozyr UR - about 150
  3. Minsk UR - approximately 320
  4. Slutsk UR - about 150
    Total - more than 800 facilities
Ukreprajony sister
  1. Karelian fortified region
  2. Kingiseppskij fortified region
  3. Pskov fortified region
  4. Ostrovsky fortified region
  5. Sebeg fortified region
  6. Polotsk fortified region
  7. Minsk fortified region
  8. Slutsk fortified region
  9. Mozyr petroleum military post
  10. Korosten'skij fortified region
  11. Novograd-volynski fortified region
  12. Kyiv military post
  13. Ostropol'skij fortified region
  14. Leticevskij fortified region
  15. Shepetivka fortified region
  16. Izslavskij fortified region
  17. Starokonstantinovskij fortified region
  18. Proskurovskij fortified region
  19. Kamianets-Podilskyi fortified region >
  20. Mogilev-Yampolsky fortified region
  21. Rybnik fortified region
  22. Tiraspol fortified region
  23. Odessa military post

The Civil War defenses were extended, creating a front that stretched over 1,200-2,000 km [according to various estimates] from the the Karelian Isthmus in the Baltic to the Black Sea. This system of fortifications was unofficially dubbed "Stalin Line", by analogy with the French "Maginot Line", or the Finnish "Mannerheim Line", etc. The Stalin Line was a chain of defensive installations along the former USSR frontier, running from to the shores of Black Sea. It consisted of more than 3,000 positions [over 4,000 by some estimates] from forts to machine gun and antitank positions, emplaces tank turrets, and observation and command positions. It consisted of twenty three fortified regions, which included strong reinforced-concrete permanent weapon emplacements (pillboxes). Four fortified regions - Polotsk, Minsk, Slutsk, Mozyr - were situated on the territory of Belarus. Here alone there were nine hundred sixty-six pillboxes. Minsk's fortified region No 63, which was 140 kilometers long included 327 pillboxes.

Total construction consisted of 23 Districts along 3,200 kilometers of the border. This included 4,224 durable construction, which gives the fortification 1.3 points per kilometer boundary. But the construction of this magnitude required great effort and material costs, for the Soviet economy, which was why it was built gradually. The first stage of construction was started in 1928. It was decided and financed the construction of four fortified areas (Karelian, Polotsk, Mozyr and Kiev), two of which Polotsk and Mozyr were in the Belarusian military district. Construction of Polotsk was undertaken in 1930-1932, Mozyr in 1931-1932. Later in 1932, it was decided that the additional building of the Minsk main construction phase, which was completed in 1933.

For several years the remaining sections of the Western frontier were built during this period, with similar features. For defense made heavy machine-gun and artillery fire dispersed front and in depth work drive. The main form of organization of defense battalion areas (BRO), are interconnected in a fire. Size on the ground was between 1 x and 2 x 2 km, designed for a small battalion. For a single battalion there were anticipated 20 emplacements. The location of the firing points was in several lines. The first line was 7-8 points. This enabled mutual rescue of neighboring buildings. Gaps in between were to be covered by artillery fire. These gaps between reached 2.5-3 km. Concrete machine gun firing points (DOTy) enabled circular fire-dominated front lamp. Level of protection guaranteed to withstand allowed one hit two 152 mm projectile. Since DOTy had to be able to effectively cover fire surroundings, the distance between them was usually 500-600 meters. Relatively small ground artillery emplacements.

In 1938 it was decided to construct new fortified area to increase the space between existing ukreprajonami. Specifically for the Belarusian military district, this meant the construction of the Slutsk fortificaiton, which should cover the Slutsk direction as well as to serve as a starting point for the Soviet troops.

Construction at Slutsk was based on a new concept of building trenches. Slutsk UR was built on the basis of a modern building fortified lines with strongholds and defense. They represented a more isolated and separate groups. Virtually all points were intended for flank (side) fire. But in addition to construction of Slutsk a decision was made to build additional plants in Minsk and work began on the construction of a new type of modern installations as well as the construction of the individual strong points of the main line of fortifications.

The entire line of the fortified regions [ukreplennykh] had been built from 1928 until the autumn of 1939. The fortified districts included a line, distributed at a depth to 6 km, or ferroconcrete constructions, with a total length along the front to 100 km. In combination with the landscape these construction created the united insurmountable line, which covered the most important strategic objects and directions. Toward the end of the 1930s fortified districts had large defensive potential and entire together were actually powerful stronghold. Fortified district had a possibility of designing of continuous artillery and machine-gun fire before the front and on the flanks.

Prior to the outbreak of World War II, these defenses were largely complete. The Soviet Armed Forces were structured into operational echelons in order to move more rapidly to the offensive. This, combined with the fortified regions, provided the defense in-depth as described by Tukhachevski.

Since in September 1939 the USSR did not include the Baltic States, West Belarus, Western Ukraine and western part of Moldavia, the western border of the USSR was along the lines of those regions. It was along the border a new line fortified area was built. After September-October 1939, the western border of the USSR has changed the shape and moved to the West. Thus "Stalin's line" was in the rear, the "old" border. And since the country's leadership decided to enhance the "new" borders, all construction works were phased out in most stores all weapons have been removed, and halted.

Therefore, at the beginning of the war with Germany, Stalin's line was not able to fully play the role it could play. Although there are enough examples of heroic defense of the individual and individual fortified [ukreprajonov] (such as Kiev, and defend more than a month and was left only for military from the prevailing situation).

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